'This is a miracle': Haskell Garrett returns for Ohio State two months after shooting
Kerry Coombs made sure to hug Haskell Garrett in the locker room following Ohio State’s season-opening 52-17 victory over Nebraska.
The Buckeyes’ defensive coordinator swelled with emotion.
“I said this is a miracle,” Coombs said. “It’s a miracle.”
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Two months after he was shot in the face while attempting to break up a fight near the university’s campus, Garrett returned to the field on Saturday, overcoming the scary setback.
“I’m not going to tell you how he played,” Coombs said, “I don’t know that until I watch the tape, but I know having him on the field was the difference-maker for the Buckeyes in every way, shape or form.
“You can’t (overvalue) the impact that has on his teammates and the defense in general, how he got back on the field in such a short period of time.”
A senior defensive tackle, Garrett first entered the game while Nebraska was on its third offensive series, but his most significant contribution occurred later in the second quarter.
With less than three minutes remaining until halftime and the Buckeyes holding a narrow 17-14 lead, he shoved Cornhuskers right guard Matt Farniok aside, charged into the backfield and sacked quarterback Adrian Martinez for a 5-yard loss.
Other defensive linemen quickly hugged him in celebration following the hit. He finished the game with two tackles.
Garrett’s return provided the Buckeyes with support for the interior defensive line, which lost two starters from last season, leaving the position group as one of the larger question marks ahead of this season.
Due to concerns around the potential spread of COVID-19 that could sideline for at least three weeks due to positive cases, coach Ryan Day has also emphasized the importance of depth across all groups.
“Depth certainly is something we've focused on, make sure that we have two and a half, three deep at each position,” Day said. “So to have him there was a huge boost to the inside guys. With his experience and his ability, it was great to get him in there.”
Since he was wounded in a shooting on Aug. 30, Garrett’s availability for games had been unknown.
Coombs said last month that he feared it could have been a career-ending injury. The gunshot wound through both of his cheeks required Garrett to be hospitalized.
His perseverance was evident in his return. Garrett made strides in his recovery as he eased back into contact periods at practices.
“He just kept coming in,” Coombs said. “I would be in my office across the hall from (defensive line coach) Larry Johnson’s, and he’s in there working with Larry with stitches and all that stuff, learning and preparing without being able to do anything physically.”
The sack against the Cornhuskers also left him with another important milestone for Garrett. It was the first of his career.